We are lucky to have a year-round grouper fishery in the bay area. No matter hot or cold water temperatures, there is always a bite, the only variable being what depth fish are actively feeding in. We have been targeting larger fish in 100- to 120-foot depths. Concentrate over small hard spots and rolls instead of the large bait shows that are prevalent in these same area. Frozen baits are working well but the larger live baits are producing much better results. Remember, all shallow grouper are still closed until April 1 seaward of the 20-fathom break. Before the most recent blast of cold air, the spring kingfish run was going well from the beach to 80 feet of water. The northerly blast dropped water temps 7-9 degrees and destroyed water clarity, making bait and fish a bit harder to come by. Look for easterly winds after this weekend to bring those same fish right back to us. Further offshore, tuna are starting their trek into the area. After a well full of pilchards are secured pick a high relief structure in 120- to 180-foot depths and start a slow but steady stream of "live chummers" behind the boat. You will know when the tuna show up because they will start busting the freebies that are swimming around your boat. Rigs should consist of medium to larger spinning rods, with a 25- to 40-pound leader and a smaller circle hook in the 4/0-6/0 range. These fish have been in the 20- to 25-pound class.
Steve Papen charters out of Indian Shores and can be reached at (727) 642-3411 and fintasticinc.com.